First

First

A Chapter by Maria Susan Williams
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Drake's first day and first time meting Ellen.

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1. First

            Wind blows through the trees. The leaves, bright orange and yellow sunbursts, rustle as the wind stirs them. The scent of the coming winter permeates the air with its cold crisp fragrance. The sun shines bright in the sky warming all it touches, despite the oncoming season. A few stray clouds can be seen passing by.

            I walk along the trail slowly, quietly. My shoes are slung around my neck so that they won’t crunch on the leaves and twigs that cover this trail. Not that anyone would be able to hear the crunch of the leaves or the snap of a twig. Not with the sounds of the road so close by. The freeway is just on the other side of the trees. I can’t see it though. It used to be that this trail was in the middle of nowhere, peaceful, silent all the time. Time was this place was so quiet that you could hear the sound of a mouse moving in the leaf litter. But I guess all beautiful things must wither and die. I tilt my head back to look at the clouds that pass lazily by over head. How wonderful it would be if I could fly into them now. As I stare into the clouds my memory drifts back to this morning.

           

            Today is my first day of high school. This year I’m attending Pigeonwing High School. The school is as unoriginal as the name itself. I caught my first glimpse of it walking out of the trees behind the school. The massive building is stone gray with a single green stripe, about a foot wide, painted around the perimeter. It has few windows and fewer doors and a chain link fence surrounding it. So it’s pretty much like any other federal intuition designed to contain people who don’t what to be there.

            My first class, not that I care about my schedule, is English. I hurry quickly through the hallways keeping my head down to avoid attracting attention. Once I enter the class I move one of the desks at the back into a darker corner. Now that I have the desk in place I drop into the chair behind it and glare at the empty air around me. I’m not really in a bad mood though. The only reason I’m doing it is to keep anyone from coming to sit close to me. The teacher walks by my desk once and seems to be on the verge of taking to me before he decides better of it.

            I just sit and wait as the rest of the students slowly make their way into the classroom in twos and threes. Just as I’d wanted, no one comes to sit close to me. The class starts and in order to “promote closeness between the teacher and students” the teacher has everyone go around and say their name. I watch as each person says their names, listening but not remembering any of it. Then it is my turn. I stand and my face is pulled from shadows. This is when the girls in the class start to pay attention. There is a hurried movement to fluff up hair and check to see if makeup has smudged. It is disgusting. Anything male even remotely good looking, in this town, would have caused the same reaction.

            I purposefully look directly at, and then away, from each one. I make sure my gaze doesn’t linger longer than a second on each of them so that they’ll all know I’m not interested. Not that all the girls in the class are such fools but most are. After I’m done glancing at the fools I speak, which only causes more swooning, and introduce myself as Drake Dargen. Once I’m done I sit disturbed by how many, as wells as the intensity of, the girls reactions.

            I contemplate changing my appearance, making it so that my face and voice doesn’t attract so much attention from the opposite sex. I could get blonde hair for a change. I’ve had about enough of this black. Yes, and maybe add a tan. Smoothing the hard point of my chin so that I look friendlier might also be a good idea. But no, I like myself the way I am now. There is no point in changing what has been for so many years now.

            The students are done saying names and the class is starting. That is pretty much my queue to check out. I stop paying attention to the class. So when one of the girls, I already forgot her name asks me a question is takes me a while to realize that someone is speaking to me. Assuming that she just wants something, it doesn’t matter what I say, “I can’t help you, and I don’t want to talk with you.”

            “That’s fine,” she says, “I was just offering, if you don’t want it that’s fine by me.” Her answer surprised me. She didn’t want anything. She was being generous. It was odd to say the least. Whenever people talk to me they always want something. Maybe this girl is just more devious and I don’t yet know what it is she wants. I’ll have to keep an eye out for her either way. The rest of the class passes in silence from her, and me.

            I have seen times when people talk to each other on a whim. They only do that with people they think are average or at least about so. Sometimes someone will speak to another that they see as a lesser merely on a whim but it is not a common sight to see such a thing, baring events forced by teachers and classrooms.

            Once the class is over I decide, mostly out of curiosity, to follow her and see where her next class is. I wait a few seconds before starting after her so she won’t notice that I’m following her. As I make my way across the large open courtyard a large male slams his shoulder into mine jerking me back. I stumble and then catch myself, turning to face my attacker. He glares back at me and I see that he is getting ready to strike again. I glance around to see what caused his agitation. Then I see it. It’s another girl, pretty and blonde. Well if he’s only posing maybe I can scare him off.

            I pull myself up to my full height and flex my muscles to that he can see them, even through the shirt. Lowering myself into a fighting stance I glare at him as menacingly as I can. I study him and take in his face in case I run into him again. His green eyes, normal green, not a bright and glowing color, as mine are, and I see that he is wavering. His soft brow hair is shaggy; though it may look good, in a fight it’s a handy cap. After a few more seconds he backs down and I continue on my way completely uninterested. I just catch his name as I walk away: Richard.

            I lost her because of the almost-fight and now I’ve got to look around for her. It takes me a few minutes but eventually I find her in one of the biology classrooms. I walk over to the teacher and explain how I was just moved to the class and so I’ll probably not be on his list. He asks to see the sheet that the office gave me, the one that “told me to come here”, I pull out one of the many I have stashed in my binder.

            Now that I’ve taken care of the teacher I go to sit next to the girl I’d met before. She notices when I sit down next to her. “Fancy seeing you here,” she says.

            “What does that mean,” I ask, completely baffled.

            She frowns, “You don’t talk to people very often do you?”

            Still confused I respond, “No, but what’s that got to do with anything?” She just rolled her eyes at me. Humans are so confusing. What does that stupid eyes roll thing mean again? I can’t remember and so just decide to discard it. “What’s your name?” I ask trying to sound shrewd.

            “My name is Ellen, Ellen Heart.  What’s your name?”

            I immediately responded, “My name is Drake Dargen.”

            “No it’s not, don’t lie to me.”

            “What do you mean?  My name is Drake Dargen.”

            “No, I know that’s a lie.  So what’s your real name?”

            I was going to repeat myself, just say Drake Dargen again.  But then it hit me, like a gigantic crushing wave.  It crashed down, on top of my head drowning me, suffocating me.  I can’t breathe through it; I can only say my name.  I gasp it out knowing, but not knowing how I know, that is the only way I’ll survive.  “Draesilker Dargen Pern”

            She looked at me quizzically.  I knew she couldn’t understand.  How could she understand?  My name is foreign to her; she’d never heard anything like it.  And she never should have.

            After my little outburst I contrived to keep my mouth shut for the remainder of the class.  I knew I was freaking her out.  But how could I dare to talk to her again.  What if I said something else stupid?  She will only think less of me if I try and fail.  So I remain silent and try not to even look her direction.  I know that crushing weight that I felt earlier came from her.

            We don’t speak again the rest of the class period. When the bell rings for lunch I jump up and hurry out the room. I quickly make my way out to the cafeteria. I don’t bother getting lunch; it’s not really worth it. It’s not like I’ll eat it anyway, wretched stuff that it is. I claim an empty table and sit, resolutely glaring at anyone who attempts to sit next to me. Unfortunately, for both them and I, there is no small number that try. After a while though people stop coming and I can brood in piece.

            As soon as I let my gaze slip down to the table top a loud slam comes from the other side of the table. Startled I try to stand but trip over the low bench and fall backwards. I throw one arm out behind myself to catch my fall. Heavily I land; my right had squishing into what is probably applesauce just as a popping noise emanates from my wrist.

            Cursing under my breath in my native tongue, or at least as close as I can get, I pull myself back into a sitting position using my left hand. Examining my right hand I realize that I was wrong; I didn’t land in applesauce, it was pudding. I wipe it off with the paper towel Ellen offers me. I carefully examine the bones in my wrist, primarily by feel, to see what damage has been wrought. “I’m sorry I scared you,” she says while I lightly finger my scaphoid and triquetrum.

            Scowling I respond, “You didn’t scare me. I just wasn’t expecting you to come thundering in on me,” I don’t realize how childish my words are until it is already too late to pull them back into my mouth. “Sorry,” I say, “I’m just a little embarrassed.”

            “That’s fine,” she says.

            “So why are you here anyway?” I ask her a little cautious that she might be digging for more of my secrets, ones that I can’t tell her.

            “I don’t know I just wanted to get to know you. You know? There’s something about you, it seems special.” That got me worried. She can tell that I’m different. It also makes her special.

            “I have a question for you, how can you tell when I’m lying?”

            “I can see it on your face,” she says.

            “Now who’s lying?” I ask. If I were anyone else I might have believed the lie. I know that I lie to well for anyone to actually notice just by looking at my face. She scrunches her face. I try out a smile but I don’t think it works. Giving up I let my face relax again.

            “What was that?” she asks.

            “What?”

            “That thing you did with your face.”

            “This?” I try the smile again.

            “Yeah that. Is it supposed to be a smile?” she starts giggling. I drop the smile instantly. That only makes her laugh harder for some reason. After a few seconds her laughter dies away. “You know you look like you were snarling or something right?” I didn’t but I think its best not to tell her that, lest she start laughing again. I don’t know what is funny but I’m fairly sure that I am the butt of the joke.

            “It’s not funny,” I tell her.

            “I guess not but why don’t you smile normally?”

            “I don’t have any reason to smile.” It’s not the truth but it’s better than saying I don’t know how. She doesn’t seem to notice though. Interesting; she can only tell when I’m not being truthful part of the time. I wonder if that’s something to do with her or me.

            “Well then, I guess I’ll just have to change that,” she says. I don’t know what she means but I doubt that she’ll have any success. I remain silent for a while, she does the same.

            “What classes do you have?” I ask to pass the time. It will also allow me to decide which to appear in. Though I don’t know much about her one thing’s for certain: she’s special. She talks for a bit about which classes she had then asks me the same question. The remainder of lunch carries on in the same manner. The bell finally rings and I get up to leave.

            “See you later then,” she says as she walks away. I don’t respond. My feet drag as I make my way to my next class. Math has got to be the most boring subject ever. Once you learn it the first time it’s really hard to fain interest. Arriving at the appropriate classroom I have the unhappy realization the boy I’d almost fought earlier, Richard, is in the same class. Talking to the teacher about my seating assignment gives me a way to avoid him. Have thoroughly impressed the teacher with my knowledge I am allowed to sit where I please.

            I find a corner at the back of the room and wedge myself into it. Sitting on my text books I mull over my encounters with Ellen. So far as I can tell she used some sort of compulsion on me, one that forces the truth. She would be a valuable asset if I could get her to trust me. Given a month or two I could do just that. I must know more before I move though. It would be wasted time if she can’t control it or it didn’t actually come from her. I need to speak with Hunter about this. The rest of the class passes quickly, time slipping through my fingers as if water.

            Spanish is the last class of the day. Tiredly I enter the class room. Glancing around, I spot the teacher seated at her desk. Apart from her the class room is empty. This is the perfect time to prove to her that I need not pay attention in class. “Hello!” she calls, in Spanish, from across the room. She quickly scurries around her desk to jerk my hand up and down. Then without a pause she starts speaking rapid Spanish. As she leads me to a seat at the front of the class she goes on and on thanking me for coming, and about how she knows that I’ll inspire the students.

            Then I figured out what had had happened. She thought that I was her guest speaker. It must be some other student for her to think that I might be the guy she had been waiting for. My being able to understand what she was saying, and therefore not acting as if I didn’t know what any of it meant, didn’t really help me either. “No, no you have me confused. I’m a student in your class. I’m not the guest speaker,” I tell her in Spanish. I hadn’t meat to speak in Spanish I just forgot; she had been using it after all, seemed natural to respond in the same language.

            Unfortunately it was too late to take it back. I’ll have to go with a shock and awe feature in order to get her to leave me alone. Even then she probably won’t leave me in peace, language teachers always want you to help with the class if they know you’re fluent. And just as I had thought she was staring, dumbstruck, at me. Her small mouth was just barely hanging open, and she was staring up at me with such a comical look on her face I almost laugh. “Oh um, so you’re not the guest speaker. Well yes. But how can you speak so well?” she asks flustered all at once.

            “I already speak Spanish as well as all the other languages this school offers, so really I just had to pick the one I liked best,” I tell her, trying to sound absent minded about it. She doesn’t look as if she believes me.

            “Right so you can speak Spanish,” she says skeptical, “do you really expect me to believe that, and how do I know you’re not just saying that to get out of having to pay attention in class?” She said all that is Spanish so I realize, rather belatedly, that it was a test.

            “Well,” I say in English, “I was just saying that so that I don’t have to pay attention, but it doesn’t mean that it isn’t true. I can speak Spanish, probably better than you, as well as German, French, Russian, Japanese, Chinese, Italian, Hindu, Arabic, and several others as well. But that isn’t important in our discussion, what is important is that you agree to leave me be all year and I agree not to make a fool of you, okay?” She nods her jaw now hanging wide open. I’m pleased, I almost smirk.

            I slump into a seat at the back of the class room and watch the door. The students file in slowly mostly in groups of twos and threes. Nearly all the seats are filled when Richard walks in. Almost at once he heads in my direction. His demeanor and stance clearly suggest that he wants a fight. Within seconds his heavy gate brings him up to my desk. Not reacting to this boy will probably get me attacked later. Reacting on the other hand will have to involve physical violence now.

            I choose the postponed violence. “You’re in my seat,” he says. Not reacting, like I had decided I got up and moved to a seat at the front of the class room. It wasn’t the best place to sit. Here the teacher kept a constant eye on you as if, by choosing to sit in the front row, you had declared yourself a trouble maker. It’s not a position that I want to have. Also there is no open seat near me for Ellen to sit in. I’ll have to make one.

            The girl sitting near me looks up feeling the piercing glare that is being focused on her. She stares back and then, when she feels it’s to awkward, looks down again. She can’t help it though and she has to look up, when she does she finds the same cold blue eyes pinning her to her seat. Finally she just gives up and decides to move away from my glare. I’m left with an empty seat for Ellen and one very confused girl.

            Ellen walks in just before the bell rings. I wonder where she was. She looks around the class room for an empty seat. The only one left is the one I just cleared. When she sees me I can almost see her give a tiny sigh. My eyes follow her as she makes her way to the open seat near me. When she sits she flashes a small smile in my direction. Then she turns to look at Richard who is sitting behind her. Her hand goes up and makes a small wave, he doesn’t notice. That little motion says it all. She likes him. Richard, a moron who will fight just to impress a girl, she likes him.

            I turn away in slight contempt. She probably only likes him because of the way he looks. I can see that he is good looking, by this high school’s standards at least. It makes me wonder why I’d ever even thought she was different. She is special, no doubt about that, but she’s not different from anyone else. I thought that this was going to be interesting, that maybe I might actually be friends with her. But of course not, everyone is driven be the same basic animal wants, so we’re all the same.

            The teacher is saying something but I’m too lost in my own thoughts to notice what language it’s in let alone the actual words. I have to figure out how to get Ellen to turn away from everyone and join us. Telling Dax will have to be the first steep though. Then he’ll probably tell me to work on cutting her off from her friends, isolating her from everyone. Unfortunately that means that I will have to take their place. I wonder if Dax will have Michelle or Hunter help me. He’ll probably leave most of it up to me though.

            Everyone in the class stands, copying them I stand as well. “Sit,” the teacher says in Spanish. No one moves. Looking around the room I see that I’m the only one who understands and so to hide my knowledge from my classmates I copy their behavior. If I act ignorant then they’ll think I am.

            The rest of the class passes slowly. When Mrs. I-Still-Don’t-Know tells us to split into groups I make my way toward Ellen without hesitation. “Hey,” I say. She looks up from her desk at my words.

            “Oh hi,” She says back, “err um holla.” Her sad attempt at Spanish is amusing and I only barely suppress a smirk.

            “So are you enjoying Spanish?” I ask, in English.

            The corns of her mouth turn down and she says, “I can’t understand a thing.”

            “It’s the first day, what did you expect?”

            “I don’t know I guess I just thought that it would be easier.” I make a small noncommittal grunt in response. She smiles at my lack of commitment. I wonder at what she finds humorous.

            “I speak some Spanish,” I tell her seeing a way to get closer.

            “How much?” she asks.

            “Probably more that anyone in the classroom, or this school for that matter,” I say in Spanish, deciding to demonstrate rather that just tell her. I want to impress her, though I’m not sure why.

            “What did you say? I didn’t understand,” she says.

            “That was kind of the point;” I tell her, “I was trying to show you that I can speak Spanish.”

            “Oh,” she says, a bit lamely.

            “I could help you with your Spanish if you want. You know like a tutor.”

            “Why do you want to help me?” she asks.

            “You sound like you could use it. I’m actually pretty much a genius so anything you need help with just ask.” She takes the genius bit as a joke. Really it’s only half true but still it hurts a little.

            “Yeah maybe,” she says with a small smile breaking through. I smile my smile, which is basically as close as I can get to a real smile, in response.

            “And switch,” Mrs. I Still Don’t Know says. We have to move on to new partners now. I decide that now that I’ve talked with Ellen I’d rather skulk in the back corner. One girl, pretty with blonde hair and big brown eyes, comes over obviously hoping to be my partner. I glare at her menacingly. She abruptly swivels around and heads as far away from the heat of my gaze as she can in this small classroom. I drop my gaze to the floor again content to look at the floor for the rest of the class period.

            I flee the school, delighted to be able to escape the closed rooms and dark halls. I make my way around back of the school so I can get to the trail in the woods. Several pairs of footsteps behind me tell me that I’m being followed. I guess that it’s Richard and some of his friends. They probably want to attack me for how I “embarrassed” Richard earlier today. Running is my best option here. I’ll just back down from the fight and then make my escape before they can fully encircle me. If I run fast enough they won’t catch me.

            “Hey Drake,” one of them calls. I turn at the sound of my name before I can stop myself. Richard’s fist connects with my cheekbone and I stumble forwards a few steps. I regain my balance and turn to face him. He bristles up. Standing straight and pulling his fists up. His jaw clenches in anticipation. He’s going to revel in punching me till I bleed.

            I shrink, trying to make it so that I look smaller that I actually am. Then I get smaller still. I glace around trying to look panicked. Richard steps closer to make his second punch. I take off running. I make a huge jump just before I reach the fence that surrounds the school. Clinging on I swing myself over the top and drop, silently, to the other side. Richard and his friends are still trying to figure out what happened by this point.

            Being careful to keep quiet I strip off my shoes and tie them around my neck. Carefully placing each foot on the leaves that over the ground, so that no sound is made, I make my way over to the trail I came in on this morning. I run, as quietly as I can, a few hundred yards down the trail then slow to a walk.

 

            My thoughts jump back to the present. Touching my finger to the burse on my cheek for the fourth time I press down lightly. The pain lances through the whole left half of my face. There are even traces of blood left in my mouth from where the inside of my cheek was cut against my teeth. Angrily spitting blood and saliva I curse Richard. The brute had to be in my classes and I just had to offend his sense of pride earlier. Now I have to spend the next four years as his punching bag. The worst part will be knowing, every time he hits me, every time he taunts me and kicks me I could take him down before he even knew what happened. I’ll never be able to though, I’ll never be allowed because I might hurt him, and that would be very bad.

            My eyes glide over a familiar tree stump. Listening I can’t hear any sounds from the road. Finally I’m here. With relief coursing through me I strip off the rest of my cloths and hang them on a tree branch. No animal will touch them, they all know better. Then, with a sigh, I change to my true self.



© 2012 Maria Susan Williams


Author's Note

Maria Susan Williams
If you can't think of anything for reviews just describe Drake and Ellen in your own words based on what you read. Also do you get whats going on at the start with the flash back or should I make it clearer? When did you figure out that there was something up with Drake? What do you think it is Ellen does? Would having most of the day retold from her point if view be interesting to you? Is it too long? Should I break it up? Answering any of these would be really helpful. Thanks!

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Added on February 1, 2012
Last Updated on February 1, 2012